An effervescent ride chock-full of memorable action and characters.


A Texas sheriff tries to take down a drug lord pushing cocaine across the Mexican-U.S. border and winds up dodging bullets in Cuba and the Cayman Islands in Reneau’s (Ruby Silver, 2014, etc.) latest thriller.

When pilot and marijuana transporter Wes Stoddard tells Cameron County Sheriff Hardin Steel that he wants to go straight, the sheriff asks for a trade-off: Wes can help the DEA get his boss, Frederick Ochoa. But their plan for Wes to sell DEA-confiscated cocaine back to Ochoa backfires when Russian Alexsie Yazov, who works for Ochoa, decides to steal the coke and, for good measure, kidnap Rory Roughton, daughter of an oil tycoon and Hardin’s sometimes-girlfriend. Yazov, however, doesn’t release Rory, despite a paid ransom. So Hardin, Wes and PI Buck Bateman initiate a rescue mission in Cuba, made even more dangerous by the fact that Ochoa, still pissed about his missing cocaine, is invested in killing all of them. The novel often feels like a series of action scenes, one trailing after the other: A sting operation begets a double-cross begets retaliation and so on. Where Reneau truly excels is the action: Hardin and his pals enact blistering sequences, from a high-speed boat chase to a quick escape in a seaplane. And these scenes are rife with shocks, as one of the criminals (much worse than Wes) makes an unlikely ally for Hardin (readers should be wary of getting too attached to Hardin’s buddies). Regardless of all of the gunfire, as well as the occasional surface-to-air missile, the story generally takes on its protagonist’s easygoing nature. It’s a lighthearted affair, even considering that there are contracts out on Hardin, Wes and Buck (Hardin calls the trio “contractees”). But there’s also a visceral moment or two, because a torturer, like many of the book’s characters, will probably suffer a violent reprisal. Reneau concludes the story with a hint that something (or maybe someone) is pending and will return, welcome or not, in Book 2.

An effervescent ride chock-full of memorable action and characters.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1497342477

Page Count: 354

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2014

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Falls short of Crichton’s many blockbusters, but fun reading nonetheless, especially for those interested in the early days...


In 1876, professor Edward Cope takes a group of students to the unforgiving American West to hunt for dinosaur fossils, and they make a tremendous discovery.

William Jason Tertullius Johnson, son of a shipbuilder and beneficiary of his father’s largess, isn’t doing very well at Yale when he makes a bet with his archrival (because every young man has one): accompany “the bone professor” Othniel Marsh to the West to dig for dinosaur fossils or pony up $1,000, but Marsh will only let Johnson join if he has a skill they can use. They need a photographer, so Johnson throws himself into the grueling task of learning photography, eventually becoming proficient. When Marsh and the team leave without him, he hitches a ride with another celebrated paleontologist, Marsh’s bitter rival, Edward Cope. Despite warnings about Indian activity, into the Judith badlands they go. It’s a harrowing trip: they weather everything from stampeding buffalo to back-breaking work, but it proves to be worth it after they discover the teeth of what looks to be a giant dinosaur, and it could be the discovery of the century if they can only get them back home safely. When the team gets separated while transporting the bones, Johnson finds himself in Deadwood and must find a way to get the bones home—and stay alive doing it. The manuscript for this novel was discovered in Crichton’s (Pirate Latitudes, 2009, etc.) archives by his wife, Sherri, and predates Jurassic Park (1990), but if readers are looking for the same experience, they may be disappointed: it’s strictly formulaic stuff. Famous folk like the Earp brothers make appearances, and Cope and Marsh, and the feud between them, were very real, although Johnson is the author’s own creation. Crichton takes a sympathetic view of American Indians and their plight, and his appreciation of the American West, and its harsh beauty, is obvious.

Falls short of Crichton’s many blockbusters, but fun reading nonetheless, especially for those interested in the early days of American paleontology.

Pub Date: May 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-247335-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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